Property: Stepping Stones - One family's property story

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Indy Lifestyle Online
ARCHITECTS Tony and Yolande Wyer have bought three properties since 1986. They now live in a four-bedroom, self-built, detached house in Oxford which they designed.

Their first purchase, a two-bedroom flat in Balham, took time to find: "We were trying to get as much for our money as possible." They trawled the estate agencies but their search was made more difficult by their professional eye: "So many of the flats had been poorly converted and looked awful."

With no deposit, scraping the pounds 35,000 purchase price together wasn't easy: "We pushed ourselves and used a broker to get a 100 per cent mortgage." At the time Tony was working in town, and the flat gave him many opportunities to "apply the slick detailing of the board room" to his own more humble home.

A call from a friend offering Tony the chance to join a one-man-band operation in Banbury led to a time of commuting. Eventually they sold their flat for pounds 60,000, getting pounds 5,000 over the going price thanks to its sleek improvements, and for the same sum bought a three-bedroom terrace in Oxford.

This house needed substantial work, at a cost of around pounds 15,000, and Tony and Yolande, wherever possible, knocked through rooms in the long, thin property even turning the "piddly little bathroom" into something luxurious. The house suffered from the common Victorian problem, a dark stairwell, but the Wyers soon rectified this: "We took the ceiling out and transformed the centre of the house."

Two children later they needed more space, and after considering village life decided to stay nearer to central Oxford for its excellent amenities. They discovered that building themselves would be as cheap as buying and having seen a sale board on a plot nearby with planning permission, made the builder an offer, pounds 60,000, which he accepted.

They replaced the plans with their own and after minor tussles with the council, plans for a split-level, four-bedroom detached house were agreed.

Instead of hiring a builder, they asked a plumber to build it - which wasn't a problem, though needing the capital from their sale brought the prospect of temporary homelessness until fortune smiled: an offer of house- sitting the local vicarage.

The Wyers are still in their self-built house which Tony highly recommends: "It's great value for money and you get what you want."

He admits that it is not his dream home - "as an architect you see houses in magazines and get to expect a certain level" - but says they are still enjoying features such as the gatehouse which shields them from the road and the double-height space in the dining room.

Nicholas Rudge of John D Wood has seen prices in Oxford creeping up to London standards: "This is pulling up prices throughout Oxfordshire and the city's edges offer a wealth of smaller properties with a village atmosphere."

Those moves in brief

1986 - bought Balham flat for pounds 35,000, sold for pounds 60,000.

1987 - bought Oxford terrace for pounds 60,000, sold for pounds 115,000.

1993 - bought land for pounds 60,000 and built own house for pounds 67,000, now worth over pounds 225,000.

If you would like your moves to be featured write to: Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. pounds 100 will be awarded for the best story printed by 31 June